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Guide to the Metropolitan Coach Lines Records
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Collection Overview
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The Metropolitan Coach Lines (MCL) records document the expansion of motor coach service and the abandonment of most rail passenger service in Los Angeles. This collection contains records created by both MCL and the Asbury Rapid Transit System, a small, private transit company that grew to be MCL's biggest competitor before being acquired by MCL in 1954. Documenting a pivotal moment in Los Angeles history, the contracts, correspondence, publications, photos and other material contained in this collection directly reflect post-war Los Angeles' move away from a city and suburbs connected through rail lines, to a metropolis dominated by motor vehicles. The activity recorded in this collection significantly shaped the peculiar character of contemporary Los Angeles. The collection contains many items of particular interest and value including documentation of the sale of Pacific Electric Railway Company property to the MCL and contractual commitment to phasing out rail lines. Photos in this collection contain vivid images of the introduction of bus transportation to Los Angeles and the concomitant abandonment of the old rail lines.
Pacific Electric sold its passenger rail cars and buses on October 1, 1953 to Jesse Haugh who organized the Metropolitan Coach Lines bus company. Service began June 19, 1955. Haugh purchased a $30 million dollar property value for only $500,000 cash with the promise that he would improve bus service and abandon the rail portions. Metropolitan Coach Lines bought Asbury Rapid Transit on August 3, 1954, further expanding service.Asbury Rapid Transit System (ARTS) was one of many small, privately owned transit ventures that had been operating in Los Angeles since the turn of the twentieth century. These companies competed with and complimented rail passenger service provided by the Pacific Electric Railway Company (PE) and the Los Angeles Railway Company (LARy) by providing bus linkages between rail suburban and interurban routes. ARTS was formed by two brothers, J.T. and F.H. Asbury out of two pre-existing transit companies: Original Stage Line which had been operating in the San Fernando Valley since 1913, and Pasadena-Ocean Park Stage Line which had been in operation since 1919. The Asbury's began their passenger service acquisitions in 1930 by acquiring two-fifths shares of all the outstanding Original Stage Line stock. On June 8, 1933, the Asbury's acquired the entirety of outstanding Pasadena-Ocean Park Stage Line stock. Original Stage Line officially became Asbury Rapid Transit System on August 31, 1939. The two predecessor companies were contractually merged on September 30, 1939, leaving Asbury Rapid Transit System as the surviving corporation. ARTS spent the 1940's trying to expand its service in the suburban regions of Los Angeles by targeting growing communities such as Torrance, Highland Park, and most notably the San Fernando Valley. ARTS took advantage of the wartime growth of the defense industry in the San Fernando Valley, transporting workers to the Lockheed and Vega airplane plants. Metropolitan Coach Lines Company (MCL) was born out of the socio-economic changes that transformed many large American cities in the years following World War II. Postwar prosperity allowed Americans to indulge in the luxury of the automobile and freeways expanded to accommodate the new auto culture. Work and home were no longer necessarily coterminous and American city-life began to decentralize. This change in American social geography had profound effects on Los Angeles' best-known transit operator, Pacific Electric Railway Company (PE). Faced with increased operating costs, decreased revenues, and falling passenger volume, PE moved to divest itself of its passenger services. Between March and October of 1953, Pacific Electric worked out a sales agreement with Jesse Haugh, who organized the Metropolitan Coach Lines bus company. PE sold its real properties, motor coaches, fare boxes, furniture, office and shop equipment, operating rights, and rail passenger facilities to Haugh and his holding company, Western Transit Systems, for $7,206,634 on March 10, 1953. Because PE agreed to provide MCL with free use of its remaining passenger rail facilities (cars, tracks, overhead, and stations) for two years, part of the agreement stated that rail passenger service was to be replaced with motor coach service as soon as possible after the closing date. Jesse Haugh and MCL quickly moved to expand bus service in the Los Angeles area. MCL immediately applied to abandon rail service in Burbank-Glendale and South Los Angeles However, although successful in terminating rail service to Glendale, fierce public opposition forced MCL to continue rail service in South Los Angeles. MCL promoted bus service on many fronts: - Orders were placed for 100 (it would eventually operate a total of 268) TDH-4801 model buses from GM and Haugh quickly established a corporate identity for MCL, replacing PE red with MCL green. - Publicity campaigns were launched with Disney, The Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade, and the Miracle Mile merchants, amongst others - Motor coach lines were introduced on the old Glendale-Burbank and Hollywood rail lines - One of the most important changes made by Haugh and MCL was the re-organization of the system into divisions spread out across the city and county, as opposed to the centralized operations of PE. For this purpose, new bus facilities were constructed in El Monte, Van Nuys, and West Hollywood. One of the biggest promotions of motor coach service by the MCL was the acquisition of the Asbury Rapid Transit System. By the 1950's, ARTS, like many of the other independent transit providers of this era, began to feel the impact of the new automotive culture. The mostly white and upwardly mobile residents of the Valley took advantage of the new freeways meandering across the vast stretches of Los Angeles to travel quickly in the luxury of their own vehicles. ARTS was unable to offset the decreased ridership with increased fares or cost savings, and thus on August 3, 1954, Asbury Rapid Transit was sold to Jesse Haugh's Metropolitan Coach Lines. ARTS continued in operation as a subsidiary of MCL until 1957 - 1958 when the newly formed public agency, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority (LAMTA), acquired both MCL and ARTS for 33 million dollars. With this sale came the end of MCL and of private ownership and operation of transportation in Los Angeles.
For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Research Library and Archive. Permission for reproduction or publication is given on behalf of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Research Library and Archive as the owner of the physical items. The researcher assumes all responsibility for possible infringement that may arise from reproduction or publication of materials from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Research Library and Archive collections.